Note to all immigrants: you have no rights. The Bush administration said on Monday that “immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts,” thus opening a “new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.”
In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.
Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an “enemy combatant,” a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.
That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.
Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri said, “It’s pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right. It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention.”
Glenn Greenwald notes: “The denial of habeas corpus rights is the most Draconian aspect of the MCA, as it authorizes detention for life with no real review and no meaningful opportunity to prove one’s innocence.”
Sen. Chris Dodd said prior to the election that he regrets the decision not to filibuster the MCA: “I regret now that I didn’t do it . . . This is a major, major blow to who we are.” And Sen. Pat Leahy, soon-to-be Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has confirmed that he is “drafting a bill to undo portions of a recently passed law that prevent terrorism detainees from going to federal court to challenge the government’s right to hold them indefinitely.”